Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Double Crusted Apple Cheese Tart

More Waffling Fun: Double Crusted Apple Pie.  I mean, why not? #willItWaffle #yesItWaffles #waffleWed

I waffle a lot of leftovers, as you read about regularly.  But they are actually rarely originally desserts, or even baked goods, which surprises many people.  I use the waffle iron as a way to reheat things, not to turn things into dessert.

But sometimes, I do start with dessert, and try to waffle it too.  Those items have been ... less successful than my savories, for the most part (although, ok, what was I thinking trying to waffle butterscotch pudding?)

Good news though: I have found a success.  Pie.
Apple Cheese Tart: Transformation.
Certainly not a standard item to stick into a waffle iron, but, this was a fun one.

So, the burning question: Leftover Double Crusted Apple Cheese Tart: Will It Waffle?

Indeed, indeed it will.  I can't wait to try waffling more pies.
The Original: Apple Cheese Tart.
"Scalloped buttery pastry crust filled with sweetened cream cheese and layered with fresh apples, brandy, and cinnamon." - GourmetXpress, Distributor

The original was an "Apple Cheese Tart", a lovely layered creation with a sweet butter shortcrust as the base, a layer of creamy sweet cream cheese filling, a layer of spiced soft apples, and pastry on top, with cutouts and decorations, all covered in pearl sugar.  Really, this was just a double crusted apple pie, with an additional sweet cheese filling, baked in a tart pan instead of a pie pan.

I enjoyed my first slice at room temperature, with whipped cream.  (And yes, I appreciated the Julie-appropriate sized slices!)
The Original: Apple Cheese Tart: Inside.
The pie, er, tart, was good as originally served, but I like my pie warm (particularly the crust).  I brought home a few extra slices, and heated up the next one.

But .... this pie didn’t work great warm due to the thick cream cheese filling layer.  That layer got a bit odd when you heated it up (it got chunky and separated), so, the pie was best cold/room temp.

But I wanted warm pie a la mode!
Leftover Apple Cheese Tart.
Then it struck me: um, waffle it?  I thought that perhaps the contact with the waffle plates would warm up the crust (and caramelize it!) and leave the center filling perhaps cooler?
Halfway Done ..
So, I stuck a slice into the waffle iron.  350 degrees per my standard.  I pressed down hard, laughed, and walked away.

I checked on it after a few minutes, and, well, it looked far more like a waffle than I ever expected.  And, um, not at all like pie at this point.

But it wasn't as crispy on top as I was hoping, so, I let it go longer.
Waffled Apple Cheese Tart.
It got perfectly crispy as I hoped it would.  The pearl sugar coating, and a bit of the sweet apple filling that ran out really helped caramelized it beautifully.

It extracted very easily from the oven, a solid, um, waffle.  The pie shape was long gone.

My idea didn’t go quite according to plan though - the cream cheese layer still warmed up, and just like when I heated in the toaster oven, got strangely separated and chunky.

Still, I tried it of course.  I topped it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, a generous drizzle of rum caramel (because, um, why not?  Caramel and apples are a perfect pairing!), and a sprinkling of sea salt (aren’t I fancy?).  I plated it really pretty, and then … failed to take a photo.  Oops.

But, lack of photo evidence aside, I assure you, this was good.  Crispy, caramelized crust, warm apples, and, although the cream cheese layer wasn’t quite ideal warm like this, when mixed with melty ice cream, and whipped cream, and caramel … who really cared?

I call this a success, but mostly it made me think about waffling pies that don't have cream cheese layers ...
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Japan Airlines, Business Class, San Francisco to Tokyo

Flight Details

Flight: JL1.
Departure Time: 4:25pm.
Aircraft: 777-300.
Class: Business.
Seat: 5K

My journey began checking out the JAL and British Airways lounges, still quite mediocre.  Our boarding time was set to 3:55pm, and, at 3:55pm on the dot, orderly boarding began, with announcements in multiple languages, AND signs held up.  There were at least 8 staff members helping with boarding, and it went faster than I've ever seen a plane board before.  When the PA system came to say it was time to push back, I was barely even settled in my seat.  We pushed back before our scheduled departure time.  Amazing efficiency.

It was overall a decent flight, smooth, good enough food, pleasant enough service.

The Seat

This was my first time flying on Japan Airlines (last time I tried, my flight was cancelled, and I wound up on Cathay Pacific, via Hong Kong, instead).

The cabin is 2-3-2 configuration, although every seat has aisle access.  The cabin is broken into a mini cabin with only one row behind first class and ahead of the galley and bathrooms, and a larger cabin with 6 rows.

I was able to get a window seat (!) in the mini cabin (!) so it was incredibly private, no foot traffic at all.  It did get a fair amount of noise from the galley though.

Overall, it was a nice seat, comfortable, private, but did lack handy storage.

The cabin also only had 2 tiny bathrooms, insufficient for a fully loaded flight.  They had toothbrushes and mouthwash in them, but nothing else of interest.  And again, tiny!

The flight was equipped with wifi (through T-mobile).  It quasi-worked, which is better than most international flights that don't even offer it at least.  However it required you to go back through the entire login flow if you didn't use it for 15 minutes, like, if you were eating (!), which was incredibly annoying.  Still, appreciated.
My Seat.
The seat was a bit narrow, and unlike many other aircraft, there was no storage along the window, the seat was right up against the wall of the aircraft.

Overall though, the seat was fairly comfortable for sitting, and had good electronic controls for moving the leg rest, back, etc.
TV / Ottoman / Storage.
In front of me was a HUGE glossy TV screen.  Really an impressive screen size and quality.  The control was a remote on a cord, easy to use and figure out, no silly touch screen necessary (not that I could have reached it, it was soooo far away).  Content available was great, many recent movies.

In front of the screen was a large ledge, but it wasn't very usable (again, very far away).  On the side was the magazine rack filled with their literature.

Under this was an ottoman and place I could keep stuff.  It became the foot of the bed when it converted.

And under that, a huge storage area, which we *were* allowed to stash stuff even during takeoff and landing.

But that was the sum of my storage space (besides the overhead bin).  I had no side pockets, no cubbies.  No where really to put my phone, my laptop, even my drink.
Aisle Seat.
The aisle seat however did have plentiful storage, and ledges all around for setting things on.  Instead of the larger forward ledge, it had a smaller one that went all along the side, providing a fine place for a drink or phone right next to the seat.
Aisle Seat: Cubby.
And those seats have a huge cubby next to the seat!

While I prefer the window for the privacy, I did lament the lack of storage.
Divider Between Seats.
Speaking of privacy, once underway, the seats have a divider between them, which makes each seat incredibly private (and the staggered layout means you aren't really right next to the person next to you anyway).
Bed.
If you choose to sleep, the seat turns into a flat bed, and an additional mattress pad (stored in the overhead bins) is available to go along with the thin blanket and pillow provided.

It was ... ok as a bed.  Perfectly flat, not sloping, and the foam mattress pad was comfortable.  It was so private.  But, the bed was very narrow.  I'm not a large person, and I could only side sleep in one direction, with my knees overlapping the gap (until I learned I could fill in the gap with my extra pillow).

The pillow, while supportive (foam), was not lofty, and felt like sleeping on a pancake.  I was glad I had brought an extra travel one as well.  And the blanket was laughably small.  I requested a second.

I attempted to sleep for about 2.5 hours, but, it was very early to be sleeping in the US, I wasn't particularly comfortable, and didn't sleep much at all.

Amenities

Amenities were on the weaker side.  I wanted pajamas!
Pillow, Amenity Kit, Slippers, Headphones, Blanket.
Waiting at my seat was a large pillow, slippers (and shoe horn!), headphones, blanket, and amenity kit.

I quickly asked if there were any extra pillows available, knowing I'd want a second one for sleeping, and was thrilled that I was provided one immediately, as it was a full flight.

The slippers were great for putting on to go to and from the restroom.

The amenity kit had a nice case.
Amenity Kit.
But the contents were lackluster.

Tissues, toothbrush (also available in the bathrooms anyway), lip blam, ear plugs, eye mask, "moisture mask".  

In amenity kits, there are really two things I ever want: lotion and gum.  Why gum is never included is beyond me, but lotion is a standard, and I missed it here.

No pen?  I didn't use anything from here.

Cardigan.
Cardigans were distributed once we got under way.  Note: they do not offer pajamas, so, bring your own.

My cardigan was amusingly large, as I think they had only one size, only one style for everyone: adult male large.  Which I am not.

It had a single button, and was a light weight material.  I actually used it, since I was wearing a white cardigan myself, and didn't want to stain it at the start of my trip.

Dinner

For the main meal service, you have the choice of a Japanese or Western menu.  Both have the same amuse bouche and dessert, but different first and main courses.
4 Course Menu.
I managed to mix and match: Japanese first course, Western main, to form the feast I wanted.
Menu.
The menu wasn't given out until we were under way.  I usually spend time reading it while we are taking off, so I was eager to see it (although, to be fair, I had already looked it up online, JAL has all the menus, by route, available on the site 3 months in advance).

The menu was many pages long, in both English and Japanese.
Drink Menu.
The wine list was fairly extensive, as was the other alcoholic drink list, including things you don't see on Western airlines, like multiple choices of sake, shochu, and plum wine, and a decent whiskey lineup.  Standard soft drinks, tea, coffee, and other hard alcohol were also offered, and JAL's signature, non-alcoholic, "Sky Time" beverage.
Japanese Menu.
The Japanese Menu was as follows:

Sakizuke
Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Wild Mushroom Truffle Oil
Pumpkin Agrodolce, Cottage Cheese

Irodori Gozen 〜Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies〜
Vinegared Snow Crab & Radish
Conger Eel rolled with Chinese Cabbage
Shrimp Cake Mashed Green Soybean Paste
Simmered Fried Eggplant in Japanese Broth
Braised Duck with Sweet Soy Sauce
Egg Cake
Tender-simmered Octopus 
Spicy "Konnyaku" Jelly
Deep-fried Taro
Simmered "Shimeji" Mushroom 
Sweet-simmered Chestnut

Dainomono
Grilled Beef Miso Flavor
Salmon with Colorful Vegetable Sauce

Steamed Rice
Miso Soup
Japanese Pickles

Kanmi
Chocolate Mousse

Western Menu.
The Western had an option for the main course (seafood, beef, or vegetarian), but everything else was fixed:

Amuse-Bouche
Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Wild Mushroom Truffle Oil
Pumpkin Agrodolce, Cottage Cheese

Hors-d'œuvre
Roast Beef Salad
Autumn Vegetables,
Wasabi Cream,
Vincotto Teriyaki Vinaigrette

Main Dish Choice
US Prime Beef Tenderloin
Mushroom Duxelle Potato Purée,
Shallot Cream Truffle Sauce

Sea-bass
Warm Parmesan Risoni,
Smoked Tomato Vin Blanc Sauce

Light Vegetarian Choice
"Rigatoni Pasta with Mushroom Bolognese"

Assorted Gourmet Breads

Dessert
Chocolate Mousse
Table Setting.
I was really surprised but how promptly meal service got underway.  Again, so efficient.

Our orders were taken, and moment later, I was asked if it was ok to set my table (with a small tablecloth).  I kinda thought it seemed early, but agreed, although it meant I had to put away my laptop (there was no space to stash my laptop other than my lap, or bag (unlike aisle seat which had a side area for it), and the tray table didn't have a half-size mode for just holding drinks, and it didn't push back out of the way either.

But my drinks were close behind.  Each person's drinks were brought out individually, along with the amuse bouche.

I opted for sparkling water and pinot noir.

The bottle of pinot was presented to me, and my serving was poured in front of me, a nice touch, no cart, no wine just fetched from the galley.

I actually really liked the wine, not too much tannin, really, just a nice wine.  I had been regretting my quick decision to go with wine rather than sake or a cocktail to start, but, I liked this, so I didn't mind.

I also tried the Sky Time that my companion ordered.  It was ... sweet kiwi based watery juice?  Not my thing.  Perhaps good with some gin?

This is likely the fastest I've ever been served on a flight (to be fair, I was in the first row of business, and seemed to be the first one in my row served).
Amuse Bouce.
"Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Wild Mushroom Truffle Oil
Pumpkin Agrodolce, Cottage Cheese"

All diners received the same duo of amuse bouche, both cold items, vegetarian.

They were both ... interesting.  And served with an adorable tiny spoon and fork.

I'm no stranger to savory panna cotta, and the cauliflower one was ok.  It wasn't smooth and creamy, but rather, was textured.  In a way I didn't quite love.  And it was very cauliflower-y.

On top was cubes of mushroom, decent enough.  I didn't taste truffle oil, nor did my companion, who does not like truffle.

The pumpkin agrodolce with cottage cheese was ... ok.

I kinda liked the cubes of cooked pumpkin, but the yellow raisins and sweet sauce were just too sweet.  The dollop of cottage cheese was also a bit odd.

Overall, both ok, but not great.
Japanese First Course: Irodori Gozen: Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies.
The next course came served from a cart, a salad and rolls for the Western meal or a box of assorted small dishes for the Japanese.  All cold items.

My request to get the Japanese starter and the Western main was honored (although I was again asked if I didn't just want the Japanese main).

My box had many goodies.

Top row:
Vinegared Snow Crab & Radish
Conger Eel rolled with Chinese Cabbage
Shrimp Cake Mashed Green Soybean Paste

Bottom Row:
Simmered Fried Eggplant in Japanese Broth
Braised Duck with Sweet Soy Sauce

Egg Cake
Tender-simmered Octopus 
Spicy "Konnyaku" Jelly
Deep-fried Taro
Simmered "Shimeji" Mushroom 
Sweet-simmered Chestnut

If I thought the presentation of the amuse bouche with the cute utensils was impressive, this was something else entirely.

Each dish was in an entirely different style tiny bowl.  They were elaborate.  My tray also came with chopsticks, an oragami bird chopstick rest, soy sauce, a toothpick, and napkin.

Still water was also on the tray, no offer to refill my empty sparkling was given.

The assortment was a mixed bag, but I'm very glad I tried it.  Some seriously fascinating stuff, and far more interesting than a salad.
Vinegared Snow Crab & Radish.
The description didn't quite match what was here.  It did have vinegared snow crab (two pieces, sorry I ate one right away!), but it also had carrots, lots of sweet stuff, black beans ...

The crab was ok, it didn't taste like much besides vinegar, but I really didn't care for the sweet stuffs under it.  Kinda meh.
Conger Eel rolled with Chinese Cabbage.
This I did not like!

The eel was super fishy.  The cabbage was slimy, really hard to chew, and tasted like the fishy eel.  My least favorite item.
Shrimp Cake Mashed Green Soybean Paste.
The cake on top I didn't care for.  It was a cold, mushy, fishy cake.

But, shockingly, I adored what was under it.  A green paste, that looked a bit like wasabi.  It wasn't wasabi, but rather, "mashed green soybean paste".  Really tasty, I liked it quite a bit.  My second favorite thing on the platter (paired with my second least favorite).
Simmered Fried Eggplant in Japanese Broth. Braised Duck with Sweet Soy Sauce.
This I also did not like.  While not quite as bad as the conger eel, the eggplant was crazy slimy.  Crazy, crazy slimy.

The sauce on top was really good, it said "sweet soy sauce", but it was more like a miso paste.  I used it to dip other items in.  Third least favorite, since I did like the sauce at least.
Egg Cake / Tender-simmered Octopus / Spicy "Konnyaku" Jelly / Deep-fried Taro /Simmered "Shimeji" Mushroom  / Sweet-simmered Chestnut.
And finally a crazy assortment of items, 2 of each (except the chestnut).  And again, a mixed bag.

The slices of egg omelet had something in them, I'm not really sure what.  I couldn't even say if it was animal or vegetable.  Fine, but not interesting.

The octopus I was really excited for, as I love octopus, but, "tender" as advertised this was not!  It was crazy chewy.  Did not like.

The jelly was ok, an interesting item I know I've had before, but wasn't entirely sure what it was.  Kinda jelly like, didn't have much flavor, but it looked cool?  The internet tells me this is pulverized konnyaku powder and water gelatin, very low calorie.

The deep fried taro is another I was super excited about (I love taro!), but, eh, it was only ok.  Certainly didn't seem deep fried.  Was mostly just soft taro.  It was fine, but, cold soft taro isn't particularly interesting.  I used the miso-like paste from the eggplant on it, and enjoyed it more that way.

The shimeji mushrooms were fine.

The highlight of this compartment, and the whole platter, was the chestnut.  And sadly, it was the only one that came as a single!

I really, really loved it.  Sweet, soft, flavorful.

Also on here was an adorable star shaped carrot and several slivers of pea pods, all fine.
"Rigatoni Pasta with Mushroom Bolognese" (Vegetarian).
And then, my Western main dish, the vegetarian pasta.  Boring, I know, but I just wasn't excited for dried out fish or overcooked beef on a plane, sorry.  My companion went for the Japanese choice, but I didn't get a photo before he dug in.

The dish was actually quite decent.

The pasta was well cooked, not soggy, not dried out.

I really loved the meaty assorted mushrooms.  The stewed tomatoes were also quite good.  Since this was vegetarian, the stuff that looks like ground beef wasn't ... it was some kind of vegetable protein that I wasn't really into.  But the mushrooms and tomatoes were great, and it was presented very nicely.

I also kinda wished I that I had some cheese to sprinkle on top, but, otherwise, this was fine.  Again, quality presentation, even if just pasta.

My companion opted for the Japanese menu, and I did steal some of his pickles.  They were fine, crunchy, an interesting mix of veggies (some of which I couldn't identify).
Chocolate Mousse.
Dessert was a single option for everyone: chocolate mousse (although the "anytime" menu also had ice cream).

I was pretty sad to see this, since I avoid chocolate in the evenings (caffeine), particularly when I'd be trying to go to bed soon after.  But ... I know people say JAL does great desserts, so I figured I could at least try a little.
Chocolate Mousse ... devoured.
Uh, oops?

I didn't just try a little.

It also wasn't what I expected from a chocolate mousse, as I was expecting a pudding.

Instead it was a chocolate mousse cake, a thin layer of chocolate sponge cake, topped with chocolate mousse.

The bottom cake layer was light and very moist.  The chocolate mousse was creamy and nice.  It also came with a stewed raspberry and blueberries, in a sweet sauce.

All components were good.  It did scream out "I want whipped cream with me!" to me, but, perhaps that was just me, and my never ending love for whipped cream.
Anytime you wish Menu.
The menu continues for many more pages, as the second meal service doesn't have a set time (just a cutoff, usually until 1 hour 30 min before landing, earlier for us due to expected storm activity).

There is a huge selection of additional hot items you can order (small plates, noodles, sandwiches, cheese, the aforementioned ice cream), and two set menus (one Japanese, one Western). 

There is no breakfast service on this flight, due to the somewhat odd timing.  The "Anytime you wish" menu was as follows:

Order in the Sky
Rice Bowl with Spicy Cod Roe & Grated Yam

Light Meal
Rigatoni Pasta with Mushroom Bolognese
〜Recommendation for light vegetarian〜
Assorted Japanese Brochettes
Crab Quesadillas
Vegetable Curry
Mushroom Soup

Noodles
Japanese "Udon" Noodles in Soup with Seaweed

Sandwich
Smoked Salmon Bagel
Croissant Sandwich with Ham & Cheese

Cheese Selection
Assorted Cheese

Refreshments
Ice Cream
Fresh Fruits

Set Plate Menu.
Then there is a  choice of two set plates, Japanese or Western options.

Japanese:
Grilled Sea-bass Salted Rice Malt Flavor
Kobachi
Japanese Pickles
Steamed Rice
Miso Soup

Western:
Chicken Pot Pie
Assorted Gourmet Breads
Greek Yogurt with Mango Sauce
Western Set Plate.
"Chicken Pot Pie / Assorted Gourmet Breads / Greek Yogurt with Mango Sauce"

Due to expected turbulence, the galley closed 2.5 hours before landing, but, we were warned.  For my next meal, I could order anything from the "Anytime you wish" menu, ranging from a cheese plate, to curry, to a ham & cheese croissant sandwich.  I wasn't particularly hungry, and if I wanted anything it would have been breakfast (not available, since, evening in Tokyo), but I went for the more ambitious Western Set Plate.

It arrived soon after ordering.

The pot pie wasn't quite what I was expecting, as, it didn't have a top, and didn't have any puff pastry.  Instead, it was a tart shell, filled with bits of chicken, in a cream sauce.  Chicken chowder tart?

It wasn't bad, actually.  I avoided the chicken since I don't like chicken, but the tart shell was ok, a bit crumbly, kinda a savory thing.  It sorta met my desire for a breakfast pastry.  The sauce was like a gravy almost, except mustard flavored?  I really liked the flavor, but it certainly wasn't as I was expecting.  I didn't find much else in the shell, just the bits of chicken and the cream sauce, not really any potatoes, carrots, or celery.

So certainly not a traditional pot pie in any way, but, not entirely bad.

The salad on the side, not listed on the menu, was great though.  Fresh, crispy greens in a light dressing.  It was really refreshing, particularly the spinach.  I was glad to have some greens.

The "Assorted Gourmet Breads" was a warm seeded roll.  No butter.  Not particularly good, but not stale or spongy.

Finally, it had a little bowl of Greek yogurt.  The menu said it had mango sauce, but there was no mango sauce.  There did seem to be a bit of something sweet, more like a honey sauce.  It was ok, thick, tangy yogurt, and I did like the sweet sauce, but there wasn't much of it.

Overall, there were some satisfying bits in here, but I was pretty confused (it was just after midnight after all), and didn't quite feel it.
Japanese "Udon" Noodles in Soup with Seaweed. Smoked Salmon Bagel.
 My companion selected two items from the Anytime menu: the noodles and a smoked salmon bagel.

The noodles was a nice portion, hot and fresh, with a seasoning packet to add as much umami as he wanted.  I tried the broth, and it was flavorful and salty.

The smoked salmon bagel was only a half bagel, and it was cold.  Not toasted.  And the bread was not good at all.  He salvaged the smoked salmon.
Vanilla Ice Cream.
Still not quite satisfied, I ordered the ice cream.  I love ice cream, and ice cream on planes always makes me quite happy, it feels so ... fancy.   However, they had only vanilla available, Haagen-Dazs.  It arrived rock solid, and still I couldn't get a spoon into it after 30 minutes.

Meh to this.  On the flight out of Haneda however they had amazing ice cream.  More on that soon.
Decaf Coffee.
Since it was night where I was headed, I couldn't order regular coffee, although they have a partnership with a fancy coffee company.  I still wanted a little zing, so I got the decaf.  

I think it was instant.  It wasn't very warm, and it wasn't very good.  Sugar and cream were offered, no sweetener available.
Read More...

Monday, October 16, 2017

7-Eleven in ... Tokyo!

Most people in the US think of 7-Eleven as perhaps a place to buy a soda or gum, but little more (of course, I do kinda like the coffee and love the cinnamon rolls).  You certainly don't go there for lunch, right?  I mean, someone must buy those taquitos near the door, but I'm not sure who.

In Japan though, things are very, very different at 7-Eleven (and other convenience stores).  It is a respectable place to get food.  The coffee is actually very good, ground to order, and they make iced coffee too.  The sushi is good, particularly the onigiri.  People love the sandwiches (with crusts cut off) and fresh baked (?!) breads.  Regular people do get food to eat there, and as packaged and scary as it looks, it is fresh.  They even have premium brands, Seven & I Premium and Seven Gold.  And its crazy cheap.

So you know me, always one to try things from silly places like this in the US, I was thrilled to do it in Japan too (plus, ZOMG, the snacks!)

And, spoiler, I loved it.

Seven Premium Deli Salad Pouches

"Seven Premium" products rigorously pursue these seven qualities: ① safety and reliability ② deliciousness ③ local flavors ④ best technology ⑤ universal design ⑥ healthiness ⑦ reasonable pricing."
First up for me, was bagged deli-like salads with Japanese ingredients.  I was beyond fascinated by these.  They also had more mundane salads in plastic boxes, with actual lettuce and the like, but I went straight for the crazy looking ones in pouches. 
Salad Pouch Feast!
The selection was huge, easily 15-20 different deli-like salads, all entirely in Japanese, except for the part telling me that the Seven Premium brand is always evolving.

These items all had pictures showing what was inside, nutrition stats on front, and were sealed tight, easy to open via a slit on top.   Each one cost about the equivalent of $1.  I was provided with chopsticks and a spoon by the cashier.
Burdock Root Salad Pouch.
First up, I went for the burdock root salad.

I would have never been able to identify it by the photo, but, luckily for me, Google translate on my phone was able to tell me this was burdock root.  I had no idea what else would be in it, but, at least I knew the main ingredient.
Burdock Root Salad: Inside.
Here you can see the contents for all their glory.

Since I wasn't bringing it home to plate up, I literally at it from the bag.  With chopsticks.  Just like this.  And it was glorious.

The burdock was crispy. Whatever it was in was really flavorful, perhaps soy based?  Lots of flavor, great texture.  What's not to love?

I might have gotten a tad bit sick of it by the last bite, but I still easily polished off the, uh, bag.
Potato Salad Pouch.
Next, potato salad.

I had no idea what the orange stuff would be (Salmon? Krab stick? Carrots?), but I knew it was potato salad from the translation, and that it was made with something from Hokkaido (perhaps the potatoes?)
Potato Salad: Inside.
Deli potato salad is obviously a fairly normal thing in the US, but I knew that 1) potato salad is really big in Japan these days, and 2) Hokkaido is known for food.  And, well, I like potato salad.

This was quite good potato salad.  Crazy creamy.  It seemed to have some potato that was sorta mashed into a paste with cream/mayo/something, which gave it an incredibly creamy texture.  The chunks of potato were nicely cooked, not too soft, but certainly not the al dente style I do prefer.

I never figured out what the orange things were though.  I think carrots, but I can't be certain.

This was very good, but yes, just potato salad, and I did grow sick of it, mostly because there were too many other things to try.

Onigiri

Next, snackable sushi -  onigiri.
Row of Onigiri.
7-Eleven serves 3 types of Onigiri:
"There are 3 main types of 7-Eleven onigiri. A type not wrapped in seaweed, a type wrapped in seaweed, and a type that is not wrapped in seaweed until right before it is eaten. They are separated into types according to the ingredients used in the center. Please give Japan's easy and healthy fast food "onigiri" a try.?"
The later are the ones I encountered on my previous visit to Japan, and was intrigued by.  The opening procedures are elaborate, but when they work out, its magic, crispy seaweed wrapper and all.
Wasabi Seaweed Onigir?
So that is the style I went for this time, but I failed at opening it properly.  I was able to cobble together a decent solution, but the 1-2-3 didn't quite work.

I really applaud the packaging though, as the nori was fresh and crisp, and really quite good.  The rice too was good, firm, fresh tasting, not mushy.

I'm not entirely sure what was in my onigiri, but I think it was seaweed, and it had some wasabi kick to it.  Flavorful for sure.

Overall, very good for a packaged onigiri, and better than most I encountered on my trip elsewhere.

Sandwiches

I mostly had Lawson (another very popular convenience store) on my agenda for sandwiches (in particular, the famed egg sandwich), but a dining companion grabbed a yakisoba pan because he had seen it in anime before, and was interested in trying one.
Yakisoba Pan.
I tried a bite.

It was ... well, what it looked like.  Noodles in a hot dog bun.  The bun was soft, and didn't taste stale, but wasn't exactly high quality.  The noodles were well sauced/seasoned, but I didn't like the sauce.

My companion enjoyed it, so, success.
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Cosmos Creations

Update Review, October 2017

Several years ago, I tried several varieties of Cosmo's Creations, sorta like puffier popcorn (one of my favorite snack foods), and I enjoyed the unique, very munchable, form factor.  I intended to try more flavors, but, uh, seem to have forgotten about them.  Until now.
Peanut Butter.
"If there’s a hall of fame for flavors, crowd-pleasing peanut butter surely holds a place of honor. This irresistibly good recipe is a blend of sweet and savory, all-natural peanut butter atop a crunchy, corn puff. It’s a simple snack to satisfy your craving on the go. Packed with dreamy peanut butter flavor, we’ve baked up another bite-sized snack that is deliciously addictive."

This was an impulse buy.  Not a standard move for me, as I'm usually quite calculated in my purchases.  But I was at the grocery store with my mom, and saw that her local grocery store carried Cosmos Creations, and remembered really liking the fascinating form factor.  And then I saw they had a peanut butter flavor, and, well, into the shopping cart it went.  (They also had maple pecan, and I also almost grabbed that one ...)

I'm glad I went out on a limb and got these.  The form factor was the same as the other flavors I've tried, a bit strange, hard to wrap your head around, somewhere between popcorn and popped corn cereal, very light, very snackable.

And the peanut butter coating?  Yup, exactly what I was hoping for.  Nicely coated, good peanut butter flavor.  And shockingly?  I didn't feel the need to freeze these, which is saying something.

Original Review, April 2014

In my world, there are certainly not only three meals in a day, and snack foods are a particular weakness of mine.  I love to munch on things.  Even better if they are sweet things.  Even better if they are some form of popcorn.

I was delighted to discover Cosmos Creations, aka, "Heavenly Morsels of Baked Corn Creations".  Not popcorn exactly, because there are no kernels or hulls involved.  Instead they are made from cornmeal that is extruded and then baked, more like a corn puff.  Like any good snack food these days, they are also gluten-free, non GMO.  I'm still not sure why I should be happy to avoid kernels and hulls though, but their marketing certainly drives this point home.

Cosmos Creations come in both sweet and savory varieties.  I did not try the savory flavors, but I could imagine them being like cheese puffs.  I also wasn't able to try their original sweet flavor, caramel, but instead got to try the rest of the sweet product line.

The satisfied my munchy cravings, and I'd happily try out more varieties.
Salted Caramel.
I know they said that it wasn't popcorn, but I somehow still expected something more popcorn-like.  As you can see in the photo, the pieces were about the size of popcorn, and at a first glance almost look like popcorn, but ... they aren't.

Since they are a puff, they are lighter and not as crispy as popcorn.  I like the crunch of popcorn more.  I do see some appeal of not ever having unpopped kernels though.  But overall, the form factor wasn't great.

But my real problem was the flavor.  Caramel can often have a bitter taste, in a good way, but this was a bit bitter in a bad way.  I didn't really taste salt, which should be a distinguishing feature of a salted caramel flavor.

Other samplers said, "these are like cereal, but better!"  Others said they couldn't quite decide if they liked them, but they had to keep eating them because they were so "intriguing".  We were interested enough to try another flavor, but wouldn't purchase this flavor again.
Cinnamon Crunch.
Next, I tried the cinnamon crunch.  I expected the pieces to just be coated in cinnamon, perhaps cinnamon and sugar, but instead they were covered in cinnamon caramel.  Much better.  The pieces were very, very, well coated, resulting in an incredibly crunchy exterior.  They seriously met my munchy desires.

The cinnamon caramel was sweet, but the cinnamon flavor was quite intense, so they were more spicy than sweet.  Really quite good.

I gladly shared the Salted Caramel flavor with others, but these I kept all for myself.  I intended to save a few to try with coffee, which I think would have been fabulous.  Black coffee paired with cinnamon and sweets?  Yes!  But ... alas, the bag was gone before I knew it.  I also intended to save a few to heat up in the toaster oven, because they actually recommend this on their web site.  But ... alas, I devoured my bag in record time.  Whoops.

I'd certainly eat these again.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mac's Maple, New Hampshire

Bear with me for some story time.

I grew up in New Hampshire, in a fairly rural area.  There was a dairy in town, that still sold milk in glass bottles at the supermarkets.  But it was far more expensive than the regular milk, so it was something we only splurged on from time to time.  Like when my mom REALLY wanted the chocolate milk, or eggnog, both which are amazing.  And then we had to deal with bottle returns, which always seemed complicated.  Those are my memories from childhood of the dairy.

Anyway, that dairy, McNamara Dairy, is a place I've been aware of most of my life, really.  It is located on the outskirts of town, down the street from the farm where we always went strawberry picking.  I've mentioned it before, like when I had eggnog whipped cream on my bread pudding at Lou's one time and it was made with McNamara Dairy eggnog, or when I reviewed my amazing experience at Home Hill Inn, which was located right down the street as well, and sourced all their dairy there as well.  But it wasn't a staple of my life.

Associated with the dairy is a sugarhouse, Mac's Maple.  My godfather makes his own syrup, so, we never got maple syrup from elsewhere, although I tried the syrup from Mac's Maple when I went to brunch at Home Hill Inn as well.  They also make maple sugar candy, so I'm pretty sure some of that must have shown up in my Christmas stocking at some point, I just don't recall.

So where is this all going?  To a great discovery I made in July 2017.  The maple creamee.

I'll back up a bit to admit that I did not know what a creamee was.  Urban Dictionary tells me this is what Vermonters call their soft serve ice cream.  I grew up in New Hampshire, not Vermont, but we are *right* on the state line.  I spent a lot of time in Vermont.  I've eaten an insane amount of soft serve ice cream.  I had never heard this term until about a year or so ago.

A maple creamee, then, is a soft serve ice cream, made with maple syrup instead of sugar.  And during the summer, McNamara Dairy and Mac's Maple combine forces to make it.  Yes, soft serve, made with local premium dairy and maple syrup.
Maple Creamee Experience!
As a soft serve lover, this sounded, well, amazing.  I honestly do not understand how it had not crossed my radar before.

The soft serve is sold at the dairy farm on weekends only, at a little stand they run, from 10am-5pm on Saturday, 12pm-5pm on Sunday.  My mother, who loves ice cream perhaps even more than me, did not know this.  She says they really have not publicized it at all.  I have no idea how long they have been offering it.  The stand also offers many other maple products, including the syrup of course.

Once I discovered the existence of this amazing creation, I had to seek it out.  The only problem?  I couldn't go during those limited hours on weekends.  I reached out to Mac's Maple on Facebook (not *really* expecting a response), to find out that they also have a mobile ice cream trailer that they bring to local baseball games.  And there was one that night.  Bingo.

I immediately told my mom we needed to go.  To White River Junction Vermont, to, uh, go see our local baseball team play.  It would cost $5 to get in, but, maybe we could tell them we were just there for ice cream?

We ate a rushed dinner, hoped in the car, and headed to the game.  We didn't regret a thing.
Side of the Ice Cream Trailer.
I spotted the ice cream trailer the moment we pulled into the parking lot.  It was adorable.  It looked like a mini maple sugar shack!  It had signs for both Mac's Maple and McNamara Dairy painted on, and beautiful artwork on the back side.

They even had little trees set up around the trailer hitch.
Ice Cream Trailer!
The front side featured the ordering window and pick-up window.

Seriously, how cute is this thing?  Look at the roof!  It has a smokestack!

The menu is pretty simple: all the maple products!  The only variety of soft serve ice cream, er, creamee, that they sell is maple.  They also sell maple candy, maple kettle corn (!), and maple cotton candy, plus that aforementioned amazing chocolate milk.
Maple Creamee + Maple Candy "Sprinkles".  $3.00 + $0.50.
Soft serve is available in a cup, cone, or sugar cone.  I went for regular cone, as I have a very strong belief that soft serve should basically only be eaten from a cone.  My mom choose a dish.

The ice cream comes in one size only.  It was ... really quite generous.  It was more than I wanted actually, I would have loved a half-size, kiddie cone, whatever you want to call it, but, alas, no choices.  It was large, but very well twirled.  There was absolutely no hollow part in the center.

The soft serve was great.  Very creamy, very smooth.  It melted perfectly in the setting sun.  The maple flavor was intense, certainly sweet, but not too overpowering.  Far better than any other maple flavor ice cream I've ever had, which makes sense, as this was real syrup, and normally they use flavored stuff.

You can add what they dub "maple sugar sprinkles" to your creamee, which I did, mostly out of curiosity.  I love sprinkles, so, why not maple sugar ones?  I didn't quite know what to expect.

The answer was little bits of maple sugar candy.  Now, these were good.  Intensely sweet maple candy.  And this is a fun idea.  But ... it was way too sweet for me with the maple ice cream.  I sadly ended up knocking them off my cone.  I think these would be incredible with vanilla ice cream.

Overall, this was wonderful.  High quality soft serve, perfectly creamy and melty, great flavor, generous size.  It was fine without the maple candy sprinkles, but I think it would have been awesome with bits of walnuts instead (hello, Maple Walnut is a popular flavor for a reason!)

I'd gladly get it again, although I'd like to split with someone, and, uh, bring my own nuts?

(Suggestions to business owner: offer walnuts as a topping! And maybe vanilla, I really think it would be amazing with the maple candy sprinkles, or for those who want something a bit less sweet and want a swirl ...)
Maple Kettle Corn (small).
"Beautiful maple kettle corn, made fresh for you!"

It is no secret that I'm obsessed with popcorn.  There is a reason, just like ice cream, I have a whole label on my blog devoted to it.  I eat more of this than ice cream, probably.  Some kind of popcorn, sweet or savory, is part of my daily snack line up.  I have opinions on popcorn.

I couldn't resist grabbing a bag of the maple kettle corn alongside my ice cream.  I *did* manage to make it all the way home before opening the (sealed) bag, which is probably a good thing, because I would have turned right back around and grabbed the family size bag too.

This was very good popcorn.

The popcorn itself was light, airy, well popped.  No duds in the bag (although, to be honest, I do like the duds too!).  The kernels were well coated.  There was some variation in the coating levels, just enough to make it impossible to stop eating, in the "oh, i just want one more perfectly coated one" sense, but all had plenty of coating.

That coating was maple flavored, sweet, beautiful flavor.  Such an extra dimension over regular kettle corn made with white sugar.  I imagine they make this with their maple sugar.  There was a slight saltiness to offset it.  Personally, I prefer a bit more salt, but, still, this was great.

Overall, wonderful, and one of very few popcorns I enjoyed just eating out of the bag at room temperature ... normally I freeze my popcorn to make it extra crunchy, and that was not needed here at all.

I'll clearly gladly consume more of this!
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